Kathryn Webster (B.A. ’75, M.A. ’79) to be honored with the College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Achievement Award. Webster is a life-long heart disease survivor. She was diagnosed with congenital heart disease at the age of four, underwent open heart surgery as a teenager and had her second open heart surgery 11 years ago. It was after her second surgery that she learned about WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.
“Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women and men, and yet there are disparities in the treatment of women, likely because traditionally heart disease has been seen as a man’s disease,” Webster said.
WomenHeart was founded by three women who all presented with heart attack symptoms at hospital emergency rooms, yet were sent home with no appropriate treatment. And all were having heart attacks. The mission of WomenHeart is to advocate for early detection, accurate diagnosis and proper treatment for women with heart disease.
Because Webster needed heart surgery right after high school, she started college one year later than her peers. There was a time when she wasn’t even sure she wanted to go to college. But her parents, who lived in Kansas City at the time, convinced her to “just give it a try.” She did. And eight years later, she had two UMKC degrees and was beginning her career in banking.
“I found that I loved learning, and I realized that my future would hold many more options if I had a college degree, even though my degrees weren’t directly related to my ultimate career path,” Webster said. “And I enjoyed the professors and working and learning with my fellow students through group projects.”
As a UMKC student, Webster worked a part-time job at a large commercial bank. Upon graduating with her bachelor of arts degrees in psychology and sociology, she was hired as a full-time employee. While at the bank, she completed her graduate work, achieving a master of arts degree in counseling and guidance. After a few years working there, she was hired by the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, where she stayed through the rest of her banking career.
“I have always loved to learn, and at UMKC, I learned a lot,” Webster said. “In fact, I had a hard time choosing a major because I liked so many different types of classes and professors. I think UMKC helped me to be well-rounded, open to all sorts of new learning opportunities and to set priorities and be responsible for meeting them. My education at UMKC opened doors for me that allowed me to pursue my career and my passion.”
Webster is now retired from the Federal Reserve Bank and devotes her time to WomenHeart as the national chair of the board of directors.
“The most important work that I have done, and still can continue to do, is to help others develop the knowledge and skills to reach their own potential and dreams,” Webster said. “By being involved with WomenHeart, I know that I am helping to save lives and improve quality of life for women and their families.”
“I continue to be driven to make a positive difference in the lives of others,” Webster said. “In particular, with regard to women’s heart health, my biggest dream is that women will receive the education needed to make the best choices in caring for their health and that of their families; that women will have access to the medical treatment that they need; that the treatment will be based on gender-specific science and standards of care; and that women will receive the support they need in traversing their personal journey in living with heart disease.”
Webster is an active member of the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Board of Directors. She also mentors students by discussing their career options, both with UMKC Career Services and on an individual basis.
Her words of wisdom to students are to not feel confined by their chosen major.
“In college, and maybe particularly arts and science, you gain very broad knowledge and critical thinking skills,” Webster said. “Those skills can be applied anywhere. Also, we all need jobs that pay the bills, but please think about volunteering your time and talent to non-profit organizations.”
Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes 16 alumni and one family with top honors. UMKC will honor Webster and other outstanding alumni at the 2017 Alumni Awards Luncheon on April 20 on campus. The luncheon is one of the university’s largest events and proceeds support student scholarships. Last year’s luncheon attracted more than 500 attendees and garnered more than $120,000 in scholarship funds. Learn more about tickets or sponsorship information for the April 20, 2017 Alumni Awards Luncheon.
Learn more about the 2017 Alumni Awards recipients.